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Riding off into retirement

17th Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operator, George Nava poses with other heavy equipment operators, called the dirt boys, at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 29, 2018. Nava began his last day, before retirement, by checking off an item on his bucket list, riding to work on his horse. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Chapman/Released)

17th Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operator, George Nava poses with other heavy equipment operators, called the dirt boys, at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 29, 2018. Nava began his last day, before retirement, by checking off an item on his bucket list, riding to work on his horse. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Chapman/Released)

17th Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operator, George Nava gets coffee from a coffee shop drive-thru. (Courtesy photo)

17th Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operator, George Nava gets coffee from a coffee shop drive-thru. (Courtesy photo)

17th Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operator, George Nava arrives at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 29, 2018. Riding his horse to work was on Nava’s bucket list, so on his last day he got the approval and began the day in style. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Chapman/Released)

17th Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operator, George Nava arrives at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 29, 2018. Riding his horse to work was on Nava’s bucket list, so on his last day he got the approval and began the day in style. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Chapman/Released)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- One thing, 17th Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operator, George Nava always wanted to do was ride his horse to work. On his last day, before retirement, Nava was able to do it.

“This is one of the last things that I wanted to do on my last day of work, checking it off my bucket list,” said Nava. “Before I did this, I called security forces and they approved it. I wanted to go out with a bang, someone is going to talk about it and they ain’t going to believe that.”

Bystanders may not have believed their eyes, but Nava’s co-workers were not surprised.

“I think it’s the first time in Goodfellow history, probably,” said 17th CES infrastructure element supervisor, Joseph Wright. “He has grown up around horses, it’s a passion. He is actually an assistant trail boss and a lead scout for the Santa Fe Trail Ride that precedes the San Angelo Stock Show every year, he has done that for the last 15 years.”

Nava’s dedication to horses is matched by his dedication to work.

“He is the man,” said Wright. “If there is a problem or an emergency he is the one you go to. When you see the water breaks, power outages or anything like that, especially underground utilities, he does all of those repairs.”

Wright’s sentiment is shared by others, including 17th CES operations flight chief, Keith Johnson.

“I have never seen him steer away from any job, he is always on the job willing to do whatever it takes,” said Johnson. “Just because he is an equipment operator doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t be down in the hole with a shovel just to help.

“He has always worked hard and I’ve never had him complain, he has always been willing to do whatever it takes. He’s always chipper, in the entire time that I have known him I have never seen him in a bad mood.”

While Nava’s work ethics will be missed, losing him will be the biggest loss.

“The biggest loss we are going to feel is the atmosphere and the environment,” said Wright. “When he takes a couple days off … the atmosphere is different. Not just in the heavy equipment section, but it’s felt all across the operations.

“He is going to be missed so much around here just because of his enthusiasm and the passion he brings.”

Nava is retiring, but he’s not done playing in the dirt.

“Everyone wishes him well and is a bit jealous,” said Wright. “He is going on and getting a job in the oil field. I think most of us are a little envious because he is going to be going out and playing with the big toys that we wish we were playing with.”

When Nava was asked for any parting words he provided.

“My memories of Goodfellow will be just enjoying coming to work every day and just having a good time.”